Guest – Flight of Fancy, LLC.

I would like to introduce Alana Stoyas, Owner and Designer from Flight of Fancy, LLC, located in Aldie, Va. Alana and I are neighbors. We first met, 3 years ago, picking up our little girls from an after school club in our neighborhood. I overheard her talking about her Mary Kay business and I was in need of some fresh, new make-up. I scheduled a makeover with her and then invited her to set up and sell her Mary Kay products at a vendor event that my friend and I were hosting.

Flight of Fancy logo

A few months later, we collaborated on some projects. Alana was looking for someone to do sewing work for her other business. I ended up working on a seat cushion and many, many glamour gardening gloves that she went on to sell at a retail shop in Leesburg, VA.

Alana garden gloves

As she describes it, Flight of Fancy is a furniture restoration and home décor boutique that offers all services of interior design. Clients can receive consultation services for painted furniture, room redesigns to work with newly refurbished pieces, and interior color consultations. Flight of Fancy also offers assistance with new builds’ finishing selections. They are able to purchase interior pieces for clients, including light fixtures (which I myself am obsessed with) at discounted prices.

Alana test tube vases 2

The evolution of Flight of Fancy goes back to when Alana was promoted to the Assistance Athletic Director at Madison H.S. in Vienna, VA. Among her duties in her knew role was to manage the activities and events sponsored by the school, as well as renting out the school’s spaces for outside special events. Realizing that she enjoyed this aspect of her job, she naturally flowed into an event planning business of her own. She found designing venues and planning the details of the events satisfied the creative side of her personality. Alana continued working full time at the school and ran her successful event planning business, planning 50+ weddings, for four years until she had her first child in 2009. She truly loved event planning, so when she walked away from it, she always thought that she would go back. But as many of us do, Alana ultimately gave up that career for the sake of her growing family.


Alana mag painted chest

In her life before the launch of Flight of Fancy, Alana found herself itching to be creative. She described battling depression due to the drought of creativity in her life. She was an entrepreneur at heart and was realizing a real desperation to do something to satisfy her mind. She had had her second child and was beginning to think she might just be too old to start a new business.


Alana mag dining set

The chalk paint craze was in its infancy. Alana began painting for friends and noticed that she had a real talent for it. She has a self-described “knack” for being able to see the outcome of a project before she even begins. She’ll keep working a project until that exact image is achieved. (Isn’t that how Michelangelo worked? He could see the figure in the marble before the first strike of the chisel and hammer.) In 2013, one year after her 2nd child was born, Flight of Fancy was given its wings.

Alana painted dresser

I asked Alana who inspires her or how she gets inspired. Alana belongs to several trade groups, namely Flipping Furniture for Profit University and Flipping Furniture for Profit Mastermind, and says that she’s inspired by the members of these groups, who are fellow furniture artists and designers. Through these groups, she has access to new painting techniques and videos that provide a continuing education for her and her craft.

Alana small dining set

Her professional idol is a designer named Kari Caldwell; a master of faux finishing, painter, decorator, designer and artist. Other means of inspiration include Pinterest and magazines, of course, but also her life! Her handcrafted products are often born of asking, “What would I like to have that I can’t find?” Examples are photo displays with clips so pictures can be easily changed. Her test-tube vases were inspired by her daughter who loves to give her mommy dandelions from outside (‘cause a standard vase just won’t properly display the tiny, delicate blossom). She’s inspired by her kids, by her clients, by colors, and by our beautiful world.

Alana test tube vases

In the short term, Alana is working to have a better work life balance. To achieve this, she is working to put certain time management principles in place. For example, Monday’s are” No Work Day”. She uses this day to catch up; to get administrative tasks complete, to research new or better ways to manage her workload, and to simply get inspired. Her goal is to slow down a bit and take on projects that truly challenge and inspire her to be a better designer and better painter.


Alana family photo

Her long-term goal she has had for a while. She is waiting for her youngest to be in school full time before going all in.  This dream includes a working in-home studio and boutique. Here she would be able paint, teach classes, and also sell her finished pieces.


Alana mag painted sideboard

I asked her how the reality of Flight of Fancy is different from what she had dreamed it would be. Without hesitation, she said, “ It’s better than I could have imagined.” She very humbly said that she owes her success to every person who has come into her life since the business started; those that have supported her, “shared” her, stood by her, and built her up. A true testament that she is on the right path is her love of her clients who she describes as, “absolutely amazing”. Most become return clients and she has come to cherish them as friends.


Alana mag dining table

Asked what she was most proud of professionally and the answer had to be her feature in the “Living Spaces, Inspired Interiors” article in the May issue of **Front Porch Living magazine (ironically photographed by another friend of mine!). Alana said that although the project was labor intensive, required some redesign, and had its frustrating moments, it was ultimately very rewarding. She is equally proud of her Pop-up boutique that she hosts in her home throughout the year. She loves seeing all of the shoppers and how much fun they have. This type of event also allows for her to mix her new career with her previous love, event planning.


Alana mag painted entertainment center

Personally, Alana says she is most proud of her children. She says, almost as a question, “I think I’m doing a good job at being a mom.” She says she is so proud watching them grow and seeing how kind they are, and is often rewarded when her daughter says, “I want to be just like you mommy. When are we going to have our store?”

Alana head shot

What Alana Stoyas, Owner and Designer of Flight of Fancy, LLC. would like for you to take away from this article is that her passion lies with this business. She will continue to educate herself and challenge herself as a creative designer in order to bring clients the best choices and quality for furniture design and interior design services. She looks forward to continuing to serve new and returning clients and added, “I wouldn’t be here without them.”


*Photos by Andrea Meyers Photography.

**Front Porch Living Magazine is a publication specifically for residents of the Willowsford community in Ashburn, VA.

***Photo by Alimond Photography.

My Favorite Martian

Why My Favorite Martian? Well, it’s just silly, that’s why. And if you don’t know what My Favorite Martian is, Google it. You must be very adorable.  (For the record, I only watched the reruns.)



Anyhoo, I wanted to talk today about my favorite designer(s). I think those that know me well might be very surprised about my answer to this. Of course, it is no secret that I LOOOOOVE Joanna Gaines. But I love her not for the reasons that you would think.



I’ve been a fan of the Gaines’ show, Fixer Upper, on HGTV, since season one. I admire her style and taste very much. Like all of the other fans, I long to visit The Silos and stay at The Bed and Breakfast and eat one of those darn cupcakes. I look forward to every episode, and watch and re-watch (over and over and over) every episode happily.



Though all of this is wonderful and lovely, I’m a fan of Joanna and Chip Gaines, not so much for their interior designs, but for how they have designed their lives. I’m moved by their love of God and family. They display a beautiful example of kindness, admiration and support for each other and their children, and show integrity and quality in their work. They genuinely seem to care about each other and every client. They have made “blooming where you are planted” cool and attractive. (I mean, truthfully, show of hands, who knew much about Waco, TX, before these two hit the airwaves? For goodness sakes, we all now know to go to Common Grounds for coffee at this point.) I digress….. These are the reasons that I love them and how they inspire me.



I have tried, sometimes desperately, to embrace the monochromatic stylings that are sooooooo popular. The white walls, the gray everything, with a pop of …cream. ??? I…just…can’t. Although I love to look at it on TV or in magazines and Instagram, I cannot LIVE in monochrome. I don’t know if my smidge of Puerto Rican heritage, or the larger portion of Italian influence is to blame, but I must have color. Saturated color. It energizes me and makes me überly happy. I’ve been following celebrity designers for years and years. From way back with the likes of Candice Olson (Divine Design circa 2003) and Nate Berkus (first introduced to me by The Oprah Winfrey Show!); the list goes on. All with what most would consider, sophisticated, subtle pallets that I admire, but just can’t bring myself to fully embrace.


monochrome room

I’ve been a big admirer of Mackenzie-Childs as far back as college (which was way back when Grunge was a household word.)  You’ve even seen the Mackenzie-Childs influence in the custom curtains that I made for my mudroom (See “Color” post from 6/11/17). It wasn’t until very recently that I have finally found other designers that speak to me and my color-craving soul. The designers that make my heart soar and inspire me as a designer are Eddie Ross and Alison Kandler.


mackenzie-childs living room

I first discovered Eddie Ross last summer (2016, I know, right?!?). I received my early summer issue of Ballard Designs Catalog in the mail. The room on the cover literally took my breath away. Seriously, I gasped. It was an amazing eclectic collection of color, prints, and LIFE! It was so exciting for me to finally see ME; MY STYLE, in print! Totally blew me away. I immediately began researching this guest designer and promptly bought his book, Modern Mix (because I also love collecting design books, surprise!).



I had a similar reaction and connection to my discovery of Alison Kandler. I fell in LOVE with a California home redo featured in the April 2017 issue of Country Living magazine (The Joy of Color! issue ..insert hands making a heart here). The designer filled the home with explosions of color inspired by some amazing wallpaper from Schumacher. Again, totally blown away. I have looked through these pages no less than 10 million times. It is true love for me.



I Googled her name and clicked the images link. I was astounded to find so many of her designs that I recognized from other magazines. I even found the picture from the April 2016 issue of HGTV Magazine that served as my inspiration for how I would have my kitchen cabinets painted for our own redo. Mind blown.


Alison Kandler kitchen inspiration

It wasn’t until I was putting this blog post together that I realized how well the style of Mackenzie-Childs, Eddie Ross and Alison Kandler work together!  Having found these two (new to me) talents has inspired me to fully embrace my unique style and decorate with confidence in a manner that makes my heart sing. I no longer feel like following the subtle crowd (although I love you all). I will live in color confidently and will LOVE it.


turq chair with lemon pillow

I challenge you to discover your own favorite designer. I LOVE learning who other people admire. It fascinates me and helps me help others to find design elements for their homes that make THEIR hearts sing. Who inspires you?


1  Full series of My Favorite Martian available on Amazon.

2  Photo from – Say what now!?  Shiplap wallpaper?!

3  Photo from

4  The Magnolia Story available on

5  Photo from Better Homes and Gardens on Instagram.  Room design by Meeghan Aimone.  Barn painting by DeAnn Designs.

6  Cutting Garden Accent Chair from Mackenzie-Childs.

7  Photo styled by Eddie Ross, guest designer for Ballard Designs 2016 summer catalog.

8  Photo of inspiration Chiang Mai wallpaper from Schumacher from

9  My inspiration for my kitchen redo.  Photo by David Tsay for HGTV magazine.  Design by Alison Kandler.

10  My first bold color leap!  Turquoise chairs in my family room.  Chair fabric:  Birkly – Aqua by Better Homes and Gardens, Pillow fabric:  Watercolor Lemons by Dariara

Turks and Caicos

turks and caicos flag

My husband and I, and another couple, traveled to Turks and Caicos in March of this year. The four of us have been traveling together at least once a year, sans kids, for about five years now. We each take turns choosing a destination. This time Turks and Caicos got the call to be our host so the guys could go scuba diving.

Chris and me in Turks

I am leaving for a trip to London and Paris, so I wanted to make sure this trip got paid homage before my whole world starts revolving around France. (Before I “accidentally” answer “oui” and “merci” all the time. LOL. Paris = Life-long dream.)

Turks house

Back to the beautiful island of Turks and Caicos. This little island is located in the Caribbean Sea, due north of Haiti. It’s name comes from the Turk’s cap cactus and the Lucayan term caya hico, meaning “string of islands”.

Turks beach

To say that the water was pristine would be an understatement. I have traveled to several islands in the Caribbean, but have never encountered such beautiful, aqua water. The beaches were white and perfect and there were flowers everywhere; just heavenly.

turks flowers

There was an understated sophistication about the place. It didn’t have the obvious party atmosphere that I’ve experienced on other islands, which I preferred. The people were friendly, but not intrusive. As I mentioned, the guys’ goal was to get some scuba diving in. My bestie, Meredith (you met her during the “Spring Smellebration” published on June 4, 2017) and I had other plans, which were no plans. Our goal for the trip was to sit in the sun, read magazines, laugh our butts off and have someone deliver us drinks, cook for us and clean for us. Three days of pure bliss (and forever lazy).

chris scuba turks

To sweeten the whole experience, it is only a 3 hour direct flight back to our home base outside of Washington, D.C. A completely doable trip.

turks sails

Would I go back? Damn straight, I would; without hesitation. And, I can be packed and ready to go in 30 minutes. Just say when.

turks tree

Guest – Ocelot Brewing Co.

Ocelot sign

Adrien Widman owns and operates his own craft beer brewery, Ocelot Brewing Co., located in Dulles, VA. I have known the Widmans for about 7 years. We live on the same street and our 12 year olds have been together in school since kindergarten. I had a bird’s eye view of the inception and birth of this business. It has been completely exciting to see Ocelot become a solid part of our local culture and a real player in the brewing community. Although the doors to Ocelot opened in 2015, the business actually started 3 ½ years ago. Building out the commercial rental space took 14 months of construction, with the planning stage running 2-3 years prior. When asked how he would describe his business he said, “Well, there are two answers to this question. The standard answer is, I like beer. The other answer, I am trying to create a sanctuary for people.”

beer music experience

After years of working in the IT industry, Adrien knew that a traditional work life was not for him. He explains, “We live in a cookie cutter neighborhood (I agree, we do) where 90% of the people commute and sit in a cube all day. Time passes you by, and all of sudden your kids are 10 and you’re fatter and life has passed you by. I hated that whole idea. I didn’t want my children thinking they had to live that way. I wanted them to know that they could do whatever they wanted to do. They do not have to fall into that life if it’s not for them.”

ocelot chalkboard

At the beginning, Adrien used to get inspired by following other brewers. He would try to taste as many different beers as he could find. He says, ”Now I know these brewers and take inspiration from their procedures and flavors. Not a copy, but maybe a profile, or color, or aroma that I like.” He finds that inspiration comes from everywhere. He’s attended beer pairing events and finds incredible inspiration when thinking of beer in combination with food.  (He’s also a really good cook, so his judgment on pairings would be really compelling.) He reads a lot about the science of beer and loves to discover a new reaction or new procedure to try.

Ocelot sticker wall

Interestingly, Adrien also mentioned how inspired he’s been by watching the immigrants in our area launch their businesses. He admires their courage to just go for it and is inspired by their perspective of “what’s the worse that could happen?” They exemplify that mindset of even if they fail, they will be better off than where they started.

ocelot flight

The reality versus the dream includes more stress and juggling than he predicted. He says, “ I thought there would be more times of just coasting. Reality is; not really, but beer helps with that.” (Right? Cheers!) He explains that the business is nonstop. From staffing, to scheduling, operation issues, customer service, planning, ordering, buying, paying for licensing, expansion….   He jokes, “Tell me when you’d like me to stop.”

ocelot lava lamp

In the short-term, his goal is just staying happy “doing what we do”. That’s really what this is all about; staying happy. From the business side, he wants to keep moving forward to support the new lifestyle he has created. He says, “I don’t care about the money part. I’m totally happy about my ceiling, as long as it doesn’t stress me out.” Long-term plans for Ocelot include a hopeful relocation. He says, “I’d really like to search for our own spot. No more renting. Some place with acreage where Ocelot would be a destination; a place where people would come to just hang out.”

ocelot vats

Professionally, Adrien is most proud of the happiness and joy that he brings to his customers every day. He says, “It lights me up.” He goes on, “You know me; I’m a hippie. Our job is to make people happy.” He even went so far as to say that if a staff member is having a bad day, he sends them home. He is careful for any negativity to be contained so that it doesn’t spread and infect his clientele. But personally, he is most proud of the fact that he had the “balls” to do it; to launch his dream. (And for my mother, I meant to write guts.) He shares, “I didn’t think I could do it, but people believed in me. When I was preparing my business plan to present to the bank I sent a draft off to my family and they sent it back with checks.”

ocelot full shot

Adrien is not an imposing person, so when I asked him what he wanted people to take away from this interview he wasn’t sure how to answer. Ultimately he said, “I think people should be inspired. Just be happy and make yourself happy no matter what it takes.”

ocelot cheers

To see more pictures from Ocelot Brewing Co, follow Jenniferthebeholder on Instagram and Twitter.  And to learn WAY more about Ocelot Brewing Co, visit their website at, or better yet, come by for a taste.

A Departure

I would like to step away from the visual for a moment to talk about beauty I discovered in an experience; a departure, so to speak.  It is so easy to talk about beauty as it is seen with our eyes, or experienced through sound, or taste, or touch, but this world is full of beauty through experiences.  A surprising candidate for this observance, for me, was the death of my father.

Dad - gravestone

Although I love to write, I absolutely fear public speaking, therefore, I did not eulogize my father.  It is common knowledge among “my people”, so I wasn’t asked, nor was I expected to do so.  Layer extreme emotion on top of fear and it just wasn’t gonna happen.

dad and mom engagement

BUT, it has been 2 1/2 years since my father’s passing and I’ve been holding on to my feelings about how I experienced it.  I know some may be put off that someone could find beauty in death, especially of a parent, but I want to share my perspective; to relieve my brain of these thoughts, to maybe help someone else who may have the same feelings, but ultimately to honor my dad, in MY words, for Father’s Day.

Dad and me baby

I’m not going to bore you by rehashing my dad’s life for you, but here’s a little taste.  He was a hard worker; a very stoic and quiet man with an explosive temper. He was a really supportive father and he loved his family fiercely.  From a daughter’s view, best dad a girl could ask for.

dad and mom wvu

Due to his A Type personality, undisciplined diet, and love for an evening cocktail, my dad entered his later years with multiple medical issues.  His heart topped the list.  To make a long story short, due to heart complications, he was put on a medication that had known side effects that could cause respiratory damage, if unchecked.  You get where I’m going here, right?

Dad and Mom - Michael's wedding

The last few years of my father’s life were spent fighting for every breath.  He was on oxygen 24/7 and couldn’t make it from the family room to the kitchen without struggling, or sometimes passing out.  He was the proverbial fish out of water.  It was excruciating to live, I’m sure, because it was excruciating to watch.

Dad - last pic

When we finally got the call to “come”, I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when he saw me.  I’m the youngest of 5 kids.  Each one of us took a few minutes to talk with him when we arrived (although he was unable to actually speak).   We had all come in together, but I was the last to see him.  At first he looked excited to see everyone, but when he finally got to me; finally realized that I was there too, he looked at me and a physical wave of understanding came over him.  He knew that we were all there to say goodbye and that he was nearing the end.

Dad - football game

We were all there with him the hour before he passed.  It was the first time in YEARS that I had seen him comfortable and breathing like a real human being.  He was so peaceful and lacked that contorted face that we had gotten so used to seeing as he fought to breathe.  And when he finally did take his last breath, without struggle, he was free.  It was a peaceful departure and one of the most beautiful moments that I will remember forever.

Dad - Greece


A favorite topic for me to talk about and study is color and color theory. I have always been moved by color and fascinated by its affects on the human condition. Beginning as a child, studying the color wheel in grade school art, to more sophisticated study of psychological impacts of colors and color combinations; I love it all.



At its core, color preference is very personal. Most people have a favorite color. My husband’s favorite color is blue. My daughter’s fav is yellow. To the extreme, there are those that have their “signature” color. My dear friend’s mom is obsessed with purple. My grandmother’s 80-something year old neighbor decorated her entire condo (and I’m talkin’ every room) in the black, white, and red combo of her favorite professional wrestler’s costume (I know, right?). Admittedly, folks that latch on to a color in this way, make it easy for us to shop for them, am I right? Having a true love of one color really helps narrow the focus, or aids in locking in a choice. (Which I’ve already established that I have a problem with.)



But color preference can also be suggested and “taught” to us by media and industry. Think in terms of social phrases we have learned, “The Little Black Dress” (a known symbol of sophistication), “No White after Labor Day” (which can invoke eye rolls from others if violated), “Pink is for girls” (but did you know that in early 19th century England, pink was actually for boys?), or even “Orange is the new Black” (LOL, hopefully not for most of us). Sports teams and school colors have a tremendous influence. And who can’t see the hand that one “little” show on HGTV has played in the mass change from taupe to grey for interiors.


wvu jersey

Fashions and interior fashions are seasonal and cyclical. Some of us are old enough to remember the avocado and turquoise fad in the 70’s. And MOST of us can remember the Tuscan reds and golds of the early 2000’s. (A lot of us are probably still undoing all of THAT.) Well the Turquoise and green are back with a vengeance in home décor. And burgundy was super hot in fashion this year. It won’t be long before we see it creeping into our homes in the form of throw pillows and dishtowels.


Turq green then and now

I am definitely one who is influenced. Is it because of my intense love of color, or my constant desire for change? I’m not sure. Probably both! For me, and you can ask my kids, I do not have a favorite color. I actually hate when I’m asked what my favorite color is.   For me, I’m influenced by my mood, my wardrobe, the season, an occasion, the weather, you name it; these different factors affect me and my choice. I laugh because you could walk my house and tell what season it was when I decorated the room. In the winter, I tend toward cool colors, hence my white, teal and silver dining room. Styled in the fall was our family room that sports warmer tones. Whenever my daughter asks me what my favorite color is, she knows to always ask, “Mommy, what’s your favorite color TODAY?”


olive oil jar

This broad love of color makes decorating quite challenging for me, especially when I am starting from scratch.  I don’t function well with endless choices. (Have I mentioned that before?) For people like me, having an inspiration piece, or a color palette, is essential to narrow the focus and getting started.  (See “Inspiration” posted 5/25/17). Wherever you stand on the color “wheel”, go for what you love, even if it’s just for the moment.


Rose medallion

1  Photo from

2  “The Destroyer”, Dick Beyer photo from

3  Let’s Goooooo Mountaineers!  (Photo from

4  “Then” pic from  “Now” pic from

5  Modigliani Frutta Laccata Olive oil jar.  This was my color inspiration for my kitchen back in 2005.

6  Octagonal plate of Rose Medallion china purchased by my grandparents in Manilla, Philippines around 1948.  My color inspiration for my family room/kitchen today.  It’s a work in progress, of course.

GUEST – White & Red Works, LLC

I am so excited, and beyond thrilled, to be launching a big part of my dream for this blog; the promotion and introduction to amazingly talented crafts people and entrepreneurs.  So without further ado….

I would like to introduce Jonathan Szczepanski from White and Red Works, LLC. Jonathan and my husband, Chris, and I worked together during Jonathan’s consulting days at Acumen Solutions. About 10 years ago, Jonathan left consulting to start his custom furniture business. Chris contacted him a few years ago about making a desk for us out of a vintage pinball machine. While he was delivering the desk, Jonathan and I began commiserating about the creative business, and have stayed connected through social media ever since. One of these days we are going to just grab a cup of coffee and talk it up! (We will literally talk shop.)


Jonathan’s work consists of pieces mostly constructed from wood, but he has made quite a few others from “unique” materials or heirloom items, for example, our pinball desk! He has built a secretary desk centered around a stained glass window from a client’s grandparent’s house that was being demolished. Some siblings hired him to make memory boxes out of the family’s old kitchen table that kept getting passed from house to house. He also loves making pieces out of trees that have come down, or need to come down, from a client’s property. Those are always special projects to him.



Although Jonathan started making custom furniture as a business about ten years ago, he has always made things out of wood. He says, “I just love the material.”

Growing up, and before White & Red Works, Jonathan was a self-proclaimed, “jack-of-all-interests”. Starting when he was a kid, he has always loved watching the woodworking shows on PBS like “The New Yankee Workshop” with Norm Abram, and “The Woodwright’s Shop” with Roy Underhill. These shows got him interested in making things. He was originally going to study architecture in college (me too!), but after he went to an information session on the career, where he was told that most architects design HVAC systems for most of their careers (wow, what a dream crusher!), he changed his mind and decided to study studio art at the University of Maryland.

Szczepanski really enjoyed the technical side of the many art disciplines, but especially loved drawing and bronze casting. He explains that in casting, he found that he really enjoyed the process of making the sculptures as much as completing the final product – sometimes more so. It was problem solving. How was he going to make what was in his mind a reality?



It was through studying art that he realized something important. He found that in art, you can do whatever you want a lot of the time. With this discovery came a new door, if you will. He explains, “When I knew I could do whatever I wanted, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a direction. I didn’t have a problem to solve.” So he shifted his focus slightly and started taking more design classes.

“Design to me is visual problem solving. I get a list of requirements – it has to be this tall and this wide, or it needs to hold a certain sized item, or I need to make something, but I have to use an old medal as a pull on a drawer – and I design to meet those requirements,” says Szczepanski. He adds, “The creativity comes out in trying to figure out the best way to accomplish those requirements.”

While in college, Jonathan was hired as a part-time graphic artist by a web design company. They liked the maps that he drew for his school newspaper (this was before Google maps, or even MapQuest. YIKES!). He then moved onto some consulting companies as a web designer where he was tasked with figuring out what the clients wanted visually, and how to make the website achieve that.



He worked in web design for about fifteen years, but it got tiring. He says, “I loved the people that I worked with, but the clients, the client jobs, and the technology started to grind on me. Designing something to increase click rates by 5% isn’t too exciting.” He found that clients would redo their sites every year or two, so there wasn’t any permanence. The technology would totally change every so many years, so he felt like he had to start from scratch in his technical knowledge all the time. Finally, he says, “I just had enough.”

He says, “One of the great things about woodworking is that it all builds upon itself – all of the knowledge, all of the techniques – they all build upon each other, so nothing is wasted.” In the tech world, he felt like he could throw out his books after a few years. Said almost proudly (or was it sentimentally?), “In woodworking, I have a larger and larger library in my shop, and many of the books I keep referencing over and over again.”

He had already built a workshop at his home, and was building projects here and there.   He asked his wife how she would feel if he gave up consulting, and tried to make a go at being a custom furniture maker. Said with all seriousness, “God bless my wife Alice, because she knew this was an itch I had to scratch and said, “Sure. We’ll figure it out.”” He left consulting and started making furniture out of his workshop in his yard. At the beginning, he was freelancing as a web designer to make ends meet until the furniture business grew, but eventually moved 100% to furniture.



As he said before, Jonathan loves the challenge of being handed a unique item and having to make a piece of furniture around it. He gets inspiration from looking through furniture and design publications. Interestingly he says, “I find them better for me, as compared to the web, because they have been looked at by editors. Someone with an eye already has given it a thumbs-up.” (Sounds pretty brilliant to me.)

He also just likes to walk around the city to see what will inspire him. He explains, “Sometimes I’ll see something – like a bridge, or a lamppost, or a stone walkway – and try to think of ways to incorporate them into a piece of furniture.” (Yes please!)

For example, he is currently trying to find ways to incorporate string in interesting patterns into his work, like on the end panel of a sideboard. He says, “I haven’t had a client bite yet, but I’ll find some lucky person to give it a go.” (It could be you!)  He also says that non-furniture things inspire many of the ideas that he has. “It’s all design, so it can work from medium to medium.”



Professionally, in the short term, Szczepanski has a “gigantic” project that incorporates multiples that is taking a lot of his time. He says, “I need to stream line the whole process and become as efficient as I can. This will involve new tools and new processes that, while somewhat redundant, are very exciting to me.”

Long term, he wants to make really one-of-a-kind pieces; things that people just don’t see everywhere. He says, “I’m not talking crazy stuff, but really interesting takes on furniture, that mean a lot to my clients.”

When asked how his reality is different from his dream, he exclaims,Sawdust EVERYWHERE!!! I never knew I was going to have to change my clothes during the day so many times. “ He goes on to say that he knew it was going to be tough, but when you really need to complete a project so you can pay your mortgage, it can really take the joy out of it sometimes.  He adds, “I also thought I was going to have more people that I knew as clients.” He found that many people would say, “I love your furniture! I’d put it in my house,” but once he started making a go at furniture professionally, so few of those people ever contacted him.



I asked Jonathan what he was most proud of professionally. Without hesitation he said, “I do everything myself. I talk to the clients to find out what they want. I design the pieces. I choose the materials. I build the furniture. I do the finishing work. I deliver it to the client. My pieces never leave my hands until I unwrap it for my clients.”

Personally what he is most proud of, he says is, “That people like me, I guess. I don’t think I ever had a nemesis, or someone who hated me. I generally get along with everyone. Even if I don’t agree with them, we can usually find something in common to connect over.”

When asked what he would like people to take away from this interview, he said, “Craft is real. It’s not a trend. It’s not something you just do on the weekends. It can be a real career. Craft people are real people, trying to make a real living. All we need are some people to understand that, and help some of us out by purchasing locally made things instead of something from a big box store that you throw away in a year or two when it breaks.” He goes on to say, “Invest in a craftsperson, and that investment will last a lifetime.” He says, “I always tell my clients, I want their grandchildren fighting over who gets grandma’s dining room table.”

I am privileged to own one of Jonathan’s pieces. I am privileged to know him. As a fellow crafts person, it’s so nice to have people in my life that get me and have a “twisted” mind like mine that likes to untangle the knots of design that clients present. And for the record, were I to have a little show like “Fixer Upper” (in my DREAMS!), Jonathan Szczepanski would be my Clint Harp.

Contact Jonathan directly at:

1  Our desk made from a vintage pinball machine!

2  Table to memory boxes project – beginning.

3  Table to memory boxes project – complete.

4  Jonathan in his workshop.

5  Jonathan’s first project that he made when he was 4 year old!

6  Bookcase made out of his client’s tree.  O…M…Goodness.  Gorgeous!

Spring Smellabration

I am a huge Bath and Body Works fan. Have been, now, for about 25 years. (Dear Lord! Have they been around that long!? Infact, I wiki’d it and they have been around for 27 years!) I was introduced to the shop back in 1992 when I moved to the Northern Virginia area after college (forget the math people, I’m “old-ish”). I was visually taken in by the charming, “Disneyfied” country feel of the store. They totally hooked me with their fine smelling bath products. I used to own a rather large collection and would match the scents to my outfit or mood. (A girl needs her hobbies.)


bathandbodyworks - vintage

It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I got turned on to their candles. And although I only purchase them on sale (‘cause I’m thrifty), I find that they are worth every penny. They are long burning (a 3-wick can burn from 25-45 hours) and they actually fill your home with fragrance. So often I’ve found that candles of other brands did not emit enough fragrance for me.  Why bother?

3 wick burn time collage

Having said all of that, I welcome you to the first annual Jennifer The Beholder Spring Smellabration. [insert trumpets here] My bestie, Meredith, and I make a day trip of this 3 times a year, to correspond with their release of new fragrances. We go in the spring, fall, and holiday time. So expect a Fall and Holiday release of our findings later this year. (I can already feel your excitement.)


bath and body fall 2015

Meredith and I have our clearly defined smell lanes, if you will. I like woodsy/nature inspired scents, while she prefers beach inspired fragrances. All well and good, but that left two obvious categories un-reviewed. Can’t have that! I’m a professional (blogger, duh. Not really. I do not get paid for this.). So I sent out the call and it was answered. My friend Jen (Jennifers usually come in pairs) likes fruit scented candles and my niece, Jackie, is a floral girl.

help wanted

Keep in mind that Bath and Body Works sells far more fragrances online than in the stores. We go, primarily, to smell new stuff, but sometimes still revert to old favorites. Without further ado, please enjoy our spring review.


BEACH CATEGORY:   NEW – TIKI BEACH. This is a vanilla, musk, orchid, and toasted coconut combination. It comes in 3-wick candles, wallflowers fragrance refills , scentportable, fragrance melts, and room perfume. TRIED AND TRUE – ENDLESS WEEKEND. Fresh summer mandarin, sun-kissed magnolia, and coconut water (I don’t make this stuff up.) make up this go-to favorite. This scent comes in 3-wick candles, wallflowers fragrance refills, room perfume, and also assorted body and bath products. Oooo!

BBW tiki beach

FLORALS: NEW – HONEYSUCKLE BOUQUET. Jackie chose this over straight up HONEYSUCKLE because she felt that it smelled more like the actual plant. The scent profile on this includes sweet honeysuckle nectar, peony petals, and soft creamy vanilla. It comes in 3-wick candles and wallflowers fragrance refills.   TRIED AND TRUE – FRESH CUT LILACS. Again, Jackie liked this because its scent was very authentic to the real deal. Here you are looking at a combo of lilac bouquets, dewy greens, and soft spring air (Whatever all that means. Means a winner, apparently!). This comes in 3-wick candles, wallflowers fragrance refills, room perfume, as well as a medium sized candle. HONORABLE MENTION – WHITE JASMINE. Made up of white jasmine buds, orange blossom, and mimosa. This is only available in a 3-wick candle.

BBW honeysuckle bouquet

FRUIT CATEGORY: NEW – WATERMELON LEMONADE. This fragrance is a combination of watermelon ice, sparking water and Meyer lemon. It is available in 3-wick candles, wallflowers fragrance refills, scentportable fragrance refills, room perfume, medium sized candles, hand cream (with shea butter – this is a new product that is THE BOMB!), hand soap, hand sanitizer, and bath and body products. How lucky for Jen! TRIED AND TRUE – CUCUMBER MELON. The scent profile on this one is summer cantaloupe, crisp cucumber, and fresh honeydew melon. This fragrance is available in 3-wick candles, wallflowers fragrance refills, hand soaps, hand cream, hand sanitizer, and bath and body products. WOW! I think Jen is on to something here. HONORABLE MENTION – FARMSTAND APPLE. This scent is composed of orchard fresh McIntosh apple, pear blossom and oak. It is available in 3-wick candles and wallflowers fragrance refills.

BBW Watermelon Lemonade

WOODSY/NATURAL SCENTS: NEW – ORANGE BLOSSOM & DRIFTWOOD. Although the lead in the name is a fruit flower, the driftwood mellows this to give it a softer delivery. This scent profile is a combo of orange blossom petals, crisp bergamot, and soft sea-washed wood. Currently online, it is only available in medium sized candles. I purchased some 3-wicks in this fragrance, but they are not being offered online as of now. They must be sold out. It’s that good. (I actually emailed the company and begged them never to discontinue this one.) TRIED AND TRUE – FRESH BAMBOO (hey that rhymes!). This is a combination of dewy greens, lilac petals and hyacinth. (Ironically, lilac is one of the only florals that I like, or NOT ironic at all.) This is available in 3-wick candles, and wallflower fragrance refills.

BBW Orange Blossom & Driftwood

I hope you enjoyed this little product review. We had so much fun putting it together. You may start to pay attention to scent profile components that you see repeating on those that you come to love. Makes online shopping SO much easier. At the very least, you now have some great gift ideas for me and my girls. Smell ya later!

BBW medium candles

1  Photo from

2  Bath and Body Works Fall store display, 2015.

*All fragrance descriptions were created by Bath and Body Works.

** is not currently receiving sponsorship and receives no money in exchange for opinions served on this site.


Today I’m talking about how to rev up your creative juices; how to get inspired. Be it for a room redo, a party theme, or a fresh paint job on a tired piece of furniture, there are many different approaches to get inspired.


first communion flowers collage

Being a very visual person, naturally I am inspired by things that I see. It may be something on tv, in a magazine, on Pinterest, or even something in a model home that inspires me to recreate, or to take to the next level. Another one of my traits is that I get overwhelmed with endless possibilities. I work better when I narrow my focus. Here are a few tried and true strategies that work for me to get focused and get moving:

  1. Focus on a color palette
  2. Focus on a theme
  3. Use what you have – no new purchases (Seen this before, have ya?   See my “Creativity” blog post from 5/14/17.)

Let’s start with color palette. This one sounds easy for some, but you may not think you have one. That’s where I started a few years ago. I simply decorated each room in my house without giving much thought to how one room related to another. Then one day, I landed a super cute shower curtain on (see below). It was a fun Waverly print called Pom Pom Play – Confetti. I was so excited when I got it and immediately hung it in one of my upstairs bathrooms. (It’s the little things.) Every day when I would walk by that bathroom, I would stop and appreciate my new find. I LOVED it! It was so cheerful and it just made me happy to see it each and every time.

Waverly shower curtain

On one of these occasions that I was “appreciating” my shower curtain (lame, I know, don’t hate), I started thinking…hey, that print would match the décor in my dining room…um, that would go great in my kitchen…wow, that would look awesome in my son’s room…my daughter’s room…… I was stunned and shocked. I had a color palette. I HAD A COLOR PALETTE!!!!!!!


Sherwin-williams color pallet

All of a sudden the décor in my house had a harmony that I had never recognized before. It always felt good to me, but I wasn’t conscious of why. It was a glorious discovery that has aided me in all of my purchases for our home since.


you are my sunshine

When it came time to trick out my new mudroom, it was an obvious choice to start with my newly discovered, or should I say, UNcovered, color palette.  I used the same Waverly print to make custom curtains (with a nod to one of my favorite designers, Mackenzie-Childs).  And to make things easier (and portable!), I uploaded a picture of my fabric (you can use any picture) into Sherwin-Williams’ app, ColorSnap.  The app pulls up all of the corresponding paint colors, complete with id numbers and names, for all of the colors in the photo. (See photo 2) You can name it and save it as a color palette. Awesome!


mud room curtains

Ok, theme. This one can be tricky. Themes are especially great for party planning, but not always great for room décor, especially if you get too literal (except kids rooms and I’ll talk about that in a minute). If using a theme for a room, touches are the way to go. For example, if you love the beach and you’d like to introduce a nautical “theme” to your bedroom, try using a nautical color palette like crisp white, a rich navy and a spice of coral or red. Stay heaviest with one color and use the other two as accents. If you must add themed artwork, one or two pieces are max. Themed tchotchkes should be used sparingly. You don’t need to kill the theme to get the idea across.


houzz nautical themed room

HOWEVER, in a kid’s room, throw all that away and go for it. The commitment to a theme in a child’s room is totally fun, décor is usually less expensive and, let’s face it, not long term. By the time little Johnny gets to 5th grade, that space themed bedroom is gonna be played out or he will move out. Right?  If your child can handle the stimuli, a tricked out room can be great inspiration for a budding imagination.


space room

As for parties, themes work great to help frame color scheme, food choices and favor ideas. More is more for a party. A theme doesn’t have to be a specific character or genre, but could even be based on a single color. We’ve all heard of P Diddy’s White Party, right? (Does he still have those?  Is he still called P Diddy?)  Keeping with a theme focuses your choices, which can be very helpful if you are short on time for planning and execution.



Lastly, use what you have. This strategy really activates creativity. Say you’re trying to recreate a Pinterest idea, or something you saw at a store, shop your home to see if you can make something else work that is similar to save yourself a trip and some cash.


super mario party favors

I recently was in need of goodie bags for a camping themed birthday party that I was throwing for my daughter. I had purchased small red pails to use instead of paper bags. (Let me just interject that I hate goodie bags from kid’s parties. They usually contain cheap trinkets that end up in the trash. I like to give eatable, or reusable gifts.) I searched high and low for red and white gingham napkins or tissue paper to line the pails before filling them with the fixin’s for smores and mini flashlights (I said “fixin’s” ’cause it’s campin’). I could not find gingham anywhere. Ugh. It was time to work with what I had. I raided my fabric stash, found an adorable red plaid fabric, cut it into small squares, and voila, perfect presentation for our guests and I didn’t spend a dime (at least not an additional dime).


smores goodie bag

These are my go to strategies for addressing creative opportunities and challenges in my life. Use them individually or combine them!  I hope they help you with new ideas, or even get you thinking about your own creative launching points. I’m looking forward to sharing other artists’ approaches with you in future posts. Stay tuned for my upcoming “Guest” page.  Coming soon!


1  Inspiration picture from Country Living Magazine

2  Example of a color palette created on Sherwin-Williams Colorsnap App.

3  Photo taken at the Spring show from Beyond the Barn Doors Vintage Home Furnishings.

4  All fabrics from  Waverly Print Fabric – Pom Pom Play/Confetti, Keepsake Calico Cotton Fabric – Large Dots on Black, Keepsake Colico Cotton Fabric – Black & White Diamond

5  Photo from,  Barclay Butera Interiors

6  Photo from, Designer Glinda Hobus of Hubus Homes & Mark Bebermeyer of Gallery B Designs

7 Photo from – Image via Jon Furniss/WireImage for MAC International

8  Masks and “?” Boxes: give aways that I made for a Super Mario themed birthday party (WAY before Super Mario was mainstream in the party supply stores, of course…eye roll, heavy sigh).  Runts bananas and chocolate gold coins were purchased from a local candy store.  Sunglasses and toy cars from Oriental Trading.

9  Mini bucket from Michaels